Hey there, all you Esquire & Tele freaks! In this Secret Agent Esquire Pickup Guitar review, I will show you what’s so special about this instrument and give my take on if it should be your next guitar.
Anyone who has at least one Telecaster and Esquire guitar in their collection knows that they play and sound very differently. The Esquire’s bridge pickup sounds more “edgy” and “twangy” than the same pickup on the Tele.
Most guitarists start with a telecaster because it seems like the more “deluxe” choice but then discover the Esquire’s hidden virtues. If you are looking for a guitar that does a little of both, then read on because this guitar could be the one for you.
Who Is This Guitar For?
This guitar is for anyone that wants the best of both worlds. It can easily cover the basic sound and playability of both an Esquire and a Telecaster.
It gets rid of the very seldom used “muddy” and “too-bassy” sound of pickup selector switch #3 (all the way toward the neck) on an Esquire and replaces it with something that sounds great.
If you’re looking for an eye-grabber that’s not too visually loud, to enhance your stage presence, it could just fit the bill.
It’s clearly a different looking guitar with its sparkle finish, a common fixture in modern country music.
It might be an attractive option for country guitar slingers that worship all things Brad, and who could blame you? The guy is frickin awesome! He loves the guitar and thinks you will too.
What Makes This Guitar Different?
The new Brad Paisley “Esquire” guitar is the latest collaboration between country super picker Brad Paisley, legendary pickup guru Seymour Duncan, and Fender musical instruments.
Brad wanted a guitar that had the look, playability, and sound of an Esquire but with the neck pickup functionality of a Telecaster (more about this later). He came up with the idea of using a “stealth” pickup in the neck position, and Seymour made it happen!
Stealth pickups, which are hidden below the pickguard, are nothing new, but this pickup is specifically designed to complement the sound of an Esquire bridge pickup. It’s what Brad calls “my favorite Tele neck pickup.”
The guitar has a paisley-pattern pickguard to give it just enough paisley mojo without overkilling the concept. Read on to get all the technical specs and other goodies.
How The Secret Agent Esquire Pickup Reproduces The “Esquire” Sound
What makes this guitar special is the “Secret Agent” neck pickup and its interaction with the bridge pickup. The neck pickup allows it to be wired like a standard Telecaster’s three-position configuration while retaining the “Esquire” sound.
Here are the wiring configurations for a standard Esquire and the Brad Paisley guitar for comparison to help you understand the difference.
Standard Esquire Wiring Configuration
The single (bridge) pickup of a Fender Esquire guitar is wired to a three-position switch, which gives the pickup the following configurations.
- Position One: The pickup is wired through the volume control only, with the tone control bypassed, to create a very sharp, trebly sound that gives it that “Esquire Mojo.”
- Position Two: The pickup is wired through both the volume and tone control to give it a more typical telecaster bridge pickup sound.
- Position Three: The pickup is wired through a special circuit that uses a capacitor and resistor, with the tone control bypassed, to create a dark “muddy” sound for rhythm playing.
Brad Paisley Secret Agent Esquire Pickup Wiring Configuration
The Brad Paisley Esquire guitar has two pickups. The bridge and neck (secret agent stealth) pickup are connected to a three-position switch in a typical Telecaster wiring configuration.
- Position One: Bridge pickup only
- Position Two: Both the bridge and neck pickup
- Position Three: Neck pickup only
Despite the fact that it switches like a standard Telecaster, the Brad Paisley guitar has the following unique characteristics.
- The guitar looks like an Esquire because only the bridge pickup is visible.
- The neck (secret agent) pickup creates less magnetic pull on the strings because it is hidden under the pickguard.
- The decreased magnetic string pull makes the stings easier to bend and increases the sustain of the notes.
- The bridge pickup has more attack and volume (like the single bridge pickup of standard Esquire) due to the decreased magnetic string pull.
- The secret agent pickup gives the guitar a well-balanced and more useful neck tone instead of a standard Esquire guitar’s muddy sound.
Features And Benefits Of The Secret Agent Esquire Pickup Guitar
This “Esquire Plus” is a multi-featured guitar with lots to love. If you’re looking for an axe with tons of visual pop, then you should definitely check out its sparkily finish in-person since even high-quality photos do not really do it justice. Brad describes it as having a “coal and diamonds look.”
In terms of benefits, the elephant in the room is what you don’t see, cleverly concealed under the pickguard. Just put this guitar through its paces, and it’s easy to understand why the Secret Agent pickup is the star of the show.
Here are the specifications for the Brad Paisley Secret Agent Esquire Guitar.
|Nut Width||1.650 Inches|
|Neck Shape||Enhanced V-Shape|
|Wood||Maple Neck With Skunk Stripe|
|Scale Length||25.5 Inches|
|Frets||21 Medium Jumbo Frets|
|Position Inlays||Black Dot|
|Fingerboard Radius||9.5 Inches|
|Finish||“Road Worn” Nitrocellulose Lacquer|
|Relic Type||Discrete Finish Checking On Neck And Fingerboard|
|Wood (Top-Middle-Back)||3 Piece Spruce-Paulownia-Spruce|
|Pickguard||Single-Ply Black & Silver Paisley Pattern|
|Relic Type||“Road Worn” With Checking & “Worn-Off” Area|
|Control Plate||Two 250K CTS Pots & One Standard 3 Position Blade Switch|
|Neck Pickup||Seymour Duncan Secret Agent Pickup (Single Coil)|
|Bridge pickup||Fender Custom Wound ’64 Tele Bridge Pickup (Single Coil)|
|Tuners||Road Worn Fender Vintage Style With “String Hole” On Top|
|Truss Rod||Rear Neck Insertion With Adjustment Near Guitar Body|
|Neck Plate||Road Worn 4 Bolt Neck Plate|
|Control Knobs||Road Worn Knurled Flat-Top Volume & Tone Knobs|
|Bridge Plate||Road Worn Steel String-Through-Body Design|
|Bridge Saddles||3 Road Worn Compensated Brass Barrel Saddles|
|Jack Plate||Chrome “Electrosocket” Plate & Jack|
The guitar comes strung with Fender® USA 250L Nickel-Plated Steel (.009-.042 Gauges) and includes a “deluxe” gig bag with case candy (Fender sticker, finish info, and guitar manual).
What Exactly Is The Secret Agent Esquire Pickup?
The Seymour Duncan Custom Shop Secret Agent Pickup is a single-coil medium output ceramic pickup designed by Seymour and Brad to fit in the pre-routed neck pickup cavity of a Fender Esquire guitar. The majority of Tele-type guitar bodies have two pickup cavities to accommodate an Esquire or Telecaster pickup configuration, but some vintage Esquires do not.
The secret agent pickup sits flush with the top of the guitar body, hidden under the pickguard. It has been specially voiced to produce a warm tele-type sound.
The pickup works nicely with the custom-wound ’64 Tele bridge pickup that comes on the Brad Paisley Esquire guitar, but it can be paired with any standard or custom bridge Esquire and Telecaster pickups.
The Secret Agent’s coil winding has about double the impedance of the ’64 bridge pickup and a lower output volume.
Here is the promotional video for the secret agent pickup (not the guitar), which features both Brad Paisley and Seymour Duncan. Brad demonstrates the pickup’s sound, which can be put in any guitar, and talks about how it meets the design characteristics and functionality he was looking for.
Don’t expect the pickup to sound the same unless you have a Dr. Z Amp and Brad’s fingers, but it should sound awesome in any Tele body setup.
Installing The Secret Agent Esquire Pickup In Your Own Guitar
The secret agent pickup is also available as a stand-alone product directly from Seymour Duncan for $130.00. Although it is a little pricey, the pickup’s design and performance are truly excellent, like all Seymour Duncan products.
If you would like to convert your Fender Esquire guitar into a Secret Agent Model, it’s fairly easy to do since it should already have a prerouted neck pickup cavity under the pickguard.
The pickup is designed to fit snugly into the pickup cavity. Place one of the two pieces of foam (included with the product) underneath the pickup to raise it up so that it sits snugly against the underside of the pickguard to keep it from moving.
You will need to rewire your Esquire like a traditional Tele. You can reuse your Esquire’s volume and tone pots as well as the three-way switch. All you need to buy is a 0.05 MFD capacitor to connect between the volume and tone control, as shown in the wiring diagram below. Be sure to remove the capacitor and resistor circuit that creates the Esquire’s rhythm sound.
Here is the wiring diagram for a standard Telecaster.
This Guitar Can Save You Money By Solving A Problem
If you long for both a Fender Esquire AND a Telecaster but only have the cash for one, then the Brad Paisley model can easily cover both models’ basic sounds. You probably won’t even miss the “bassy-tone” setting of a standard Esquire that most people don’t use very much, anyways.
Unless you’re a true Tele freak and need an Esquire, Broadcaster, No Caster, and Telecaster in your collection, the Brad Paisley model should do the trick.
Playability And Overall Sound
This guitar is comfortable and easy to play. The enhanced v-shape fits nicely in your hand. A 9.5-inch radius fingerboard and medium-jumbo frets make string bending a breeze.
The fingerboard radius slowly increases (flattens) as you move toward the upper note registers, making it comfortable to play chords at the nut and easier to bend strings above the fifth fret. It approximates the configuration and playability of a compound radius neck.
The specially designed Fender bridge pickup is very twangy and aggressive sounding, which is just what you would expect from an “Esquire” guitar and can easily cut through the mix in a multiple-piece band.
The Duncan Secret Agent pickup sounds surprisingly warm for a ceramic design. Its low end is rich and jazzy sounding but not muddy at all like the bass sound on an Esquire guitar. Its non-shielded single-coil design can sound a little noisy, especially when connected to a high-gain amp.
Since the height of the neck pickup cannot be adjusted, it’s critical to adjust the bridge pickup height just right to get the proper balance and volume, especially in the middle pickup selector position with both pickups turned on at once.
Most people may be tempted to bring the bridge pickup as close as possible to the strings to get that “rip your throat out” Esquire sound, but that’s not really the way this guitar works best. Remember, this is a “hybrid” Esquire/Telecaster guitar, and it has to be set up to achieve the best overall sound from both pickups.
Here is a video of Brad demonstrating a stock Fender Seymour Duncan Brad paisley Esquire guitar.
What I like About The Secret Agent Esquire Pickup Guitar
The guitar’s body is made from paulownia wood sandwiched between a thin top and bottom layer of spruce, making it very resonant and lightweight at about 5 to 5.5 pounds! It also helps enhance the natural sustain of the instrument.
I like that Fender used nitrocellulose on the neck and body of the guitar. The nitrocellulose lacquer finish and the soft V-shaped neck helps give it a more vintage feel.
Nitrocellulose is less protective than polyurethane, which lets the wood “breathe” better and accommodates wear-and-tear during normal use to augment the natural aging process.
The pickguard is totally rad and compliments the body’s black sparkle finish perfectly. When viewed from certain angles under particular lighting conditions, the pickguard seems to actually “melt” into the rest of the body.
The hidden pickup and brass saddles help give the guitar a more vintage Esquire vibe. The way a guitar looks and plays can definitely influence your playing, for better or worse. This guitar has mojo to spare that beckons you to pick it up and play.
What I Don’t Like About The Secret Agent Esquire Pickup Guitar
The bridge pickup sounds great on its own, but it won’t totally replace the iconic “harsh trebly bite” of a standard Esquire guitar in the first selector switch position, which bypasses the tone control.
The “road worn” relicing on this guitar doesn’t really add much. The finish checking is difficult to notice among the sparkly paint job, and it looks a little too repetitive on the fingerboard.
The guitar is only available in black sparkle, which may have been at Brad’s request. I would like to see it available in a few colors with matching paisley pickguards, especially since a sparkle pattern might be a little too over the top for some guitarists.
The instrument is a little pricey, considering that it is made in Mexico, has a synthetic nut and a gig bag instead of a hardshell case.
Beware, When Changing The Pickguard
If you want to ditch the single-ply paisley-pattern pickguard that comes installed on the guitar for something different, be aware that it can affect the Secret Agent neck pickup’s volume and tone.
To keep the sound the same, the replacement pickguard should be single-ply and of the same thickness and material as the original one.
A three-ply pickguard or a metal one (e.g., aluminum) will likely roll off some of the pickup’s high end and make the lower end more flabby sounding.
I don’t know why you would want to change the pickguard, except to substitute it for one with a different paisley pattern since it completes the guitar’s overall look and theme.
Is The Secret Agent Esquire Guitar Legit?
All in all, I think this guitar is right on target! It’s a very creative and workable approach to a “best of both worlds” scenario.
Brad and Seymour have really created something special that removes the Esquire’s limitations and adds the versatility of a Telecaster!
It really looks and plays great. This guitar could literally cover any modern music, from rock and county to jazz.
Despite some subjective shortcomings, I would love to own one, and that day may come sooner than I think since I really can’t help myself when it comes to great ideas that create novel guitars.
The Brad Paisley (Secret Agent Esquire Pickup) Guitar adds the true sound and pickup configuration of a Telecaster while retaining an original Esquire’s vintage vibe.
Although the guitar is a little on the expensive side, it’s like getting two guitars for the price of one and could very well be the only guitar you ever need, especially if you play country music.
I would love to see the guitar made available in more colors and a custom shop version.
Once you give this guitar a try, I think you will be hooked. Besides, what’s cooler than owning a guitar designed by Brad!
I highly recommend the Fender Brad Paisley Esquire Electric Guitar.
Tell Us What You Think
Please leave a comment below if you enjoyed this Brad Paisley guitar review or want to leave your own personal review.
If have any questions about this guitar I will be happy to help you.
- Have you played the Brad Paisley Esquire guitar?
- What do you think of the sound?
- Is it worth the money?
- Do you like the black sparkle finish?
If you like Brad Paisley, see Best Telecaster Players – These Tele Masters Will Shock You!, and be sure to read Dr. Z Z Wreck Jr 1×12 Combo Review – Can You Say “Awesome”?